Friday, November 16, 2012

Tennessee Trip

I had a nice trip over the long weekend to visit Anna’s relatives in Tennessee (good folks ranging in age from one to ninety-one). Here are a few thoughts from the weekend…

• On the way down, we stopped at the Tamarack Center just off the West Virginia Turnpike near Beckley. Tamarack was created nearly twenty years ago to showcase the creative talents of West Virginia artisans. It is a beautiful circular building that sells all sorts of West Virginia items. They have a great “cafeteria” featuring West Virginia foods, as cooked by recipes from the Greenbrier—I like their fried green tomato sandwiches.

On the way back, we stopped at the new Heartwood Center along I-81 at Abingdon, Virginia. Heartwood is “western” Virginia’s version of Tamarack which was built a few years ago. It is smaller than Tamarack, and doesn’t have studios to watch craftsmen at work or large meeting spaces. We ate at their restaurant, but it doesn’t compare to Tamarack. They also showcase local foods, but because it is not cafeteria style, it takes longer to get in and get out. I’m glad we stopped and gave it a try, but I think it was a “one and done” experience for me.

• Whenever I am near the southern end of the West Virginia Turnpike, I like to listen to “Little Buddy Radio” on 93.1. This FM station broadcasts from Princeton, and is run by Bob Denver’s widow (Denver is best known as his famous character “Gilligan”). His wife was from West Virginia, so he moved to southern West Virginia with her and they set up this radio station before he died. As an independent station, they play an eclectic mix of music, including some of the more obscure oldies that don’t seem to get played much on oldies radio station.

• While in Tennessee, we stopped at a Food City grocery store so I could stock up on Cheerwine, a black cherry soda bottled and sold in southeastern states. I first became familiar with Cheerwine when they sponsored Morgan Shepherd’s race car years ago. I like the taste and always enjoy getting unusual “pop”—when teaching I usually had something to drink at my desk in case my throat got dry, so when traveling I would always look for pop that wasn’t available in Parkersburg. On this particular trip, not only did I find Cheerwine on sale, but I also purchased some Junior Johnson Root Beer.

• I enjoyed seeing all the tributes on Facebook for Veterans Day, but one in particular caught my eye. A high school classmate of mine (Glenn D., who is a veteran himself, and who survived the attack on the American barracks in Beirut in 1983) posted a picture of his great-great-great grandfather in his Civil War uniform. His grandfather had the same last name as my great-great-great grandfather who also fought (although in a different West Virginia infantry regiment). After some discussion, we have determined that our thrice great-grandfathers were cousins (meaning we have the same great-great-great-great-great grandfather). It was nice to figure out we are distantly related!

• We also made a slight detour on the way back so I could see Bristol Speedway. Bristol is a nice town whose main street straddles the state line between Virginia and Tennessee. It is known as the birthplace of country music, in addition to its famous half-mile race track. I attended my first NASCAR race in 1965 (the Daytona 500, won by Fred Lorenzen), but my last race was in 1989 for the Bristol night race (won by Darrell Waltrip). Since my previous visit, Bristol has expanded dramatically. There were no seats between turns one and two when I watched on that August night 23 years ago, but this attached picture gives you an idea how many seats have been built just in turn two since then. It is humongous!

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